During yesterday’s chat with Mud director-writer Jeff Nichols, I shared my admiration for the way he wrote and directed the performances by the two kids, played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. Sheridan in particular. Nichols doesn’t have him speak or behave in a typical “movie kid” fashion, or in a way that broadly conveys that the kid is naive and wide-eyed and emotionally vulnerable, etc. And all but totally ignorant about human nature and the realities of life.

(l. to. r.) Mud costars Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Matthew McConaughey.

Sheridan’s “Ellis” character, who’s supposed to be around 14, knows his way around. He’s a kid in some ways but he’s not an idiot and he notices things, and his eyes don’t lie or look away much. He has a naive faith in the idea of true love, but I bought that. He acts the way I felt and probably behaved when I was 14. I knew a few things. I knew about watching my back and being on guard and reading adults for their weaknesses and strengths, and that it wasn’t wise to be friendly with dickheads or assholes.

Here’s Nichols’ response to my observation. He knew exactly what I meant and explained where he was coming from as a writer.

I stole the line about eyes that don’t lie and don’t look away much. Here’s a portion of a scene that the line comes from. Anyone can find out what film it’s from:

Woman: You…you have a lot of very fine qualities. But…
Man: What fine qualities?
Woman: You have good eyes. Not kind, but they don’t lie, and they don’t look away much, and they don’t miss anything. I could use eyes like that.
Man: But you’re overdue in Vermont. Is he a tough guy?
Woman: He’s pretty tough.
Man: What will he do?
Woman: Understand, probably.
Man: Boy, that is tough.